A Guide to Russia


Russia is the world’s largest country and its vast natural resources power its economy. Oil and natural gas account for large portions of its wealth. Other top industries include timber, steel, and agriculture. In addition, it has one of the most extensive and sophisticated military forces in the world.

Russia’s origins are complex. The Kievan Rus’ disintegrated in the thirteenth century due to armed struggles within its princely family, and its dominance was replaced by Vladimir-Suzdal, Novgorod, and Halych-Volhynia. By the seventeenth century, Ivan the Terrible’s long Livonian War secured a Baltic foothold and helped bring Siberia under Russian control. Meanwhile, Peter the Great consolidated autocracy in Russia, and by the time of his death, the empire had reached three times its original size and stretched across the Eurasian landmass to the Pacific Ocean.

With its icy permafrost, tumultuous rivers and seas, dense forests and rolling hills, vast plains, and tundra, Russia is one of the most diverse countries on Earth. The Russian Federation is also rich in mineral and energy resources, with some of the planet’s largest reserves of oil, natural gas, and coal.

While the majority of Russia’s people are ethnic Russians, there are many different languages spoken in the country. It’s a good idea to learn some basic phrases before visiting, especially if you plan to travel to remote regions. Most Russians will be more than happy to help you if you try to speak their language, and they will appreciate your effort.

As a visitor, you will be surprised to see the Russian people’s warmth and generosity, even in situations where they are not well-off themselves. In a Moscow restaurant, my husband and I were approached by a man who wanted to know if we recognized the Beach Boys song Kokomo. He sang it to us in Russian, messed up the lyrics, and then hugged me.

Getting around Russia is fairly easy, and most major cities have metros and buses that run frequently. Outside of the capitals, it may be more difficult to get from one small city to another, particularly in Siberia and the Far East. In these cases, it may be cheaper and easier to take a train. There are fast trains such as Sapsan and Nevsky Express, or you can take a cheaper but much slower Marshrutka (private mini-buses).

The first step in planning your trip to Russia is obtaining a visa. It is best to do this through a reputable travel agency so that you are certain your application will be processed correctly and in a timely manner. Besides that, it is best to research the destinations you would like to visit, and find out more about them so that you are prepared for your journey. This will make the whole process much more pleasant and stress-free. Lastly, don’t forget to pack your passport! And have fun! The people of Russia are looking forward to seeing you. Enjoy your adventure in their homeland!